Do you own an inkjet printer? Has the printhead ever clogged up on you,
creating streaks or missing colors from your printing?
Clogs can be incredibly frustrating. Normally when you find out you have
a clogged printhead, it's because you're right in the middle of printing
something important. It's one of those problems that you never ask for. It
just seems to throw itself in your lap without warning, and then taunts you
in your efforts to fix it.
The printhead is the mechanism of your printer (or inkjet cartridge),
where the ink actually comes out.
For the most part, printhead clogs can be normally be flushed out with a
couple of "head cleaning" cycles. A head cleaning cycle is a built-in
function of your printer. It's a specialized routine meant to address this
type of problem.
This "cleaning cycle" works by sending a strong 'print signal' to your
printer, while at the same time drawing a small vacuum from underneath. The
combination of these two steps works in an attempt to suck out clogged ink
from the printhead. From my experience, you'll probably need to run between
3 and 5 cycles to fully clear a clog.
The location of the head cleaning cycle proceedure varies for each
printer brand, so refer to your printer owner's manual for specific
instructions to find yours. Check the index first.
If you don't have your owner's manual anymore, you can check our your
printer manufacturers website. Most likely, they will have your printer
There are times however, when a few standard head cleaning routines don't
seem to solve the problem. A stubborn printhead clog like this can be
persistent enough to make you want to rip out your hair.
For times like these, you'll need to pull out the big guns!
For stubborn inkjet printhead clogs, there are various cleaners out there
specifically for this purpose. These cleaners are formulated to
dried or "gummy" ink which may have accumulated from infrequent printer use,
or even just a general build-up over time.
I personally brought an old printer "back from the dead" using a product
called 'Clog Buster'. It was a printer I had purchased off of eBay which
apparently hadn't been used in awhile. I spent a few hours trying to revive
the printer, and 'Clog Buster' was the only thing that worked when nothing
The only downside with using a cleaning product like this however, is
that you usually don't have it in your immediate possession when the clog
hits. Unless you have some already on hand, you'll have to wait for it to
be shipped to you. In the meantime, your printing project will have to
remain on pause until it arrives.
(But maybe I can help...)
The good news is that you MAY be able to solve the problem using some
basic household products. In fact, Windex glass cleaner can actually work
well for dissolving dried ink. What's the secret ingredient?
Tough printhead clogs can usually be brought into submission by soaking
the printhead in a solution of 50/50% ammonia and distilled water.
A important word of warning... Ammonia is potent and powerful stuff.
When working with ammonia, always make sure you've got adequate ventilation,
and avoid mixing it with other chemicals. Very important.
So, if your printhead is located on the inkjet cartridge itself, you'll
want to soak the printhead in the 50/50 solution for an hour or two.
If the printhead unit is located inside your inkjet printer itself, then
you'll first need to remove the inkjet cartridges. After those are removed,
put some of the solution into the top of the printhead (directly into the
nozzle holes) and let it sit a few hours. Go ahead and put a little more
into the printhead resting seat. (This is the rubber rectangle part that
seals off the printhead unit while the carriage is in it's resting
If this initial soaking doesn't work, then repeat another time using 100%
ammonia for up to one hour. Afterward, make sure to rinse completely with
If the clog doesn't immediately clear, go ahead and let the printer sit
overnight and try it again the next day. Sometimes the clog will breakdown
slowly and release later as the ammonia takes it's toll.
Finally, for those of you wondering about the effectiveness of using
alcohol to unclog cartridges and printhead -- here's a quick note...
Alcohol won't work as well as ammonia, but may work better than a few
cleaning cycles. The downside is that alcohol may actually dry out the
plastics and metals in the printhead. This could actually increase the
chances of clogging later on down the road. So try to avoid alcohol if
Bob Stephens writes for ASAP Inkjets.